My sister, my friend

Sisters by fate, friends by choice." I read this recently in a gift shop. It was written on a tiny ceramic plate with a drawing of two even tinier girls in pink dresses holding hands. There was no way I could avoid thinking about my own sister. Born just 2-1/2 years apart, we may as well have been born on opposite sides of the globe. Maybe even on different planets.

Tiny and blonde, my sister will often - in a single breath - go from talking about the state of the world to who she thinks is the cutest Top 40 pop singer. I roll my eyes and beg her to stay on one topic.

She loves weird food and being really loud. She loves to argue and make me mad. I get so frustrated with her that I find it impossible to lower my voice when she's stated an opinion that she knows is inappropriate. So we fight.

We don't get physical, but we scream and shout so much that neighbors must be about to dial 911 when we finally settle down. But when I think about all that we've been through, I can't help smiling. I look forward to being with her. And I often think about the time she and I got lost in the mall.

She was 5, and I was 8. Our father told us to sit together on a bench and wait while he ran into an office just outside the mall to drop something off.

"Just sit there and don't talk to anyone," he said. "I'll be out in exactly two minutes."

We did as he asked. There was plenty to look at outside. But wait, was that a clown inside the mall? It was! And were those balloons he was giving out? Yes, they were! How could we, two young girls, pass up a chance at free balloons? Besides, he was just on the other side of the door and we would be back before the bench got cold. Daddy would never know.

"C'mon, Amanda!" I commanded. "There's a clown!"

"I don't know, Laurie." my sister warned. "Daddy said to sit here."

"But he has balloons!" I cried.

"Yeah! Let's go!" Now she couldn't get off of the bench fast enough.

With our hands still welded together, we ran inside. But the clown had moved on. He rounded a corner, and we followed. We were hot on his trail; we were going to get our balloons. Not wanting to completely disobey Daddy, though, we didn't try to hail him because that would involve talking to him - which we'd been told specifically not to do.

Suddenly, Amanda stopped.

"My shoe!" she squealed. "It's not on good!" I quickly reached down and pulled the back of her sandal up over the heel of her sock.

"OK!" I said, "Let's go!"

But now the clown was a flash of color disappearing into the crowd. He was too far ahead of us to catch. My hopes of getting a big fat balloon tied to my wrist vanished. And looking up, I suddenly realized I didn't know where we were.

"Hey, where did we come from?" I said, scanning the horizon.

"Down that way, I think," Amanda said, "back the other way."

We walked back the other way for a while. But nothing looked familiar. This wasn't the mall we usually went to. Holding onto my sister's small sweaty hand I was determined to get us back to where we'd started. But after turning so many corners and seeing so many shops I hadn't seen before, I knew we were lost. We'd been walking for a while. I started to cry.

"Daddy's going to be mad at us!" I moaned.

"Don't worry Laurie," Amanda said. "We'll find him."

Just then, standing 10 feet in front of us, I spotted a policeman. We walked toward him. He became a blurry form as my tears came too quickly to wipe away.

"We-we-we're lost!" I stammered.

"Um, OK," he said. "Uh, who were you with?" He was not ready for us, I could tell.

I couldn't compose myself. My sister came to my rescue. "OK, policeman," she started. "My daddy told us to sit down on the bench...." She went on, explaining the whole situation better than any other 5-year-old could.

While we waited for mall security to come by with a golf cart and make an announcement over the PA system, the policeman tried to calm us (me) down by offering us cookies from the cookie store. I was too upset to eat, but my little sister did her duty by accepting a cookie for herself and the one that I would not eat. With cookies almost too big to fit in her lap, she dug in. Her face covered in gooey chocolate, she said sweetly, "Don't worry, Laurie. Daddy won't be mad."

Five minutes later, my father walked up with a security guard. He was quite relieved to see us. "I shouldn't have left you alone," he said as he squeezed us.

I remember looking at my sister as she tried to lick chocolate off her nose.

"What happened?" my father said. "I'm not mad, I just want to know why you guys walked off."

"I wanted to get a balloon," Amanda said. She was rescuing me once again.

"Well, at least you stayed together," Daddy said. "What would you do without each other?"

As the three of us walked on, I gave my sister a big hug. Her sandal fell off again. "We should get lost more often," Amanda said. "Those cookies were good." I smile each time I think of this.

My sister likes bright colors. She loves playing with children. She prays for the safety of lost dogs when we see them along the side of the road. And whether she knows it or not, I admire her. I love her, and I like being her friend. I recently read somewhere, "Don't ever argue with someone you don't love." I keep this in mind, as well as all the great memories the two of us share.

And with that, I think it's safe to say that my sister and I love each other more than anything.

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